“Living Building” Opens Today in St. Louis

living-building.jpgHere’s a breath of fresh air—one of North America’s first “living buildings” opened today in at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new Living Learning Center, set in the woods at an environmental-research facility on campus, is also in the running to become the first building to meet the Living Building Challenge.

The initiative, sponsored by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council and launched in 2006, is arguably the most extreme green building rating system in the world.

The builders of the 2,900-square-foot (269.4-square-meter) learning center say it meets the 16 requirements to earn living-building status.

Among the requirements:

Solar energy will run the building, and any excess will be pumped back into the electric grid to be resold by the electric company.

Rainwater will be captured and stored in a 3,000-gallon (11,356-liter) underground cistern and purified for drinking water. (Find out how rainwater harvesting works.)

Porous pavement around the building will absorb storm-water runoff, and no wastewater will be produced.

Fallen trees or trees slated for removal from nearby woods were used to build the center, meeting the requirement that materials come from within 500 miles (805 kilometers) to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions.

(Learn how to build your own eco-friendly house from the ground up.)

Likewise, the center will be a learning hub for a summer high school outreach program and university classes.

More than 60 project teams throughout North America have signed up to pursue living-building certification, Eden Brukman, regional director of the Cascadia building council, said in a statement.

Washington University’s learning center is one of two of the first projects opening in May, but to meet the standards it must be operational for at least 12 consecutive months, Brukman said.

” … There are many people throughout the country—and the continent—watching with eager anticipation,” she said.

Visit these sites for more information on green buildings and construction:

How to Get a Green Roof for Dirt Cheap

Whole House Quiz: Learn Where You’re Losing Money

Video: Watch a Green Home Makeover

And check out National Geographic’s Summer Green Guide for more information on how to green your home and your life.

Christine Dell’Amore, National Geographic News environment editor

Photo courtesy Joe Angeles/WUSTL

Human Journey

Tasha Eichenseher is the Environment Producer and Editor for National Geographic Digital Media. She has covered water issues for a wide range of media outlets, including E/The Environment Magazine, Environmental Science & Technology online news, Greenwire, Green Guide, and National Geographic News.